Free! Plantation Bay stay, DC VIP tickets

Our tennis players arrived last Monday. Wearing blue-and-white shirts with PILIPINAS printed at the back, they carried with them giant tennis bags and even larger, jumbo-sized smiles. Excited. That’s how they looked. I helped welcome them at the airport. Thanks to Harry Radaza, we rode an open-air truck that transported our Davis Cuppers from MCIAA to Plantation Bay. Along the route, hundreds of schoolchildren stood. They cheered. Screamed. Waved flags. Loud music played. Fireworks erupted. Twenty cars, 33 motorbikes and hundreds paraded. Cecil Mamiit snapped photos with his Canon DSLR. PJ Tierro slapped high-fives. “So this is how it feels to be Manny Pacquiao!” I told Harry as hundreds lined the streets of Lapu-Lapu City.

What a welcome! “First-time pa ko ka experience ingon ani,” said Johnny Arcilla, our local No.1, in the press conference. If the Cebuano hospitality astounded our countrymen-visitors, what followed next had them dazzled. Minutes after landing in Plantation Bay, we walked. There, surrounded by 1,500 red and blue brand-new-smelling seats, sat the center stage that will be the focus of next weekend’s Battle of Mactan.

“Amazing,” said Mamiit, the 34-year-old captain who was once ranked world no. 72. Three months ago with Efren Belarmino, Randy Villanueva, Harry Radaza and myself, Cecil stood on the same spot. It was bare. Two rotten hard-courts slept. No bleachers stood. It was quiet.

Today, it’s the Australian Open transported from Melbourne to Cebu. World-caliber tennis will unfold when yellow Slazenger balls will be smothered. Racquet strings will snap. Arms, raised; victories, claimed. Japan? Philippines? Only three letters will stand… JPN or PHL. Go, PILIPINAS!

BASELINE. Since it’s a holiday in Cebu City today, why not watch the players? For the first time, get to see them train. At the Baseline tennis courts, they’ll practice from 2:30 to 5 p.m.

Treat (pronounced “Tret”) Conrad Huey you’ll watch. Same with J. Arcilla, Elbert Anasta, PJ Tierro and C. Mamiit. They’ll use up two courts. They’ll exchange hundreds of forehands. After, they’ll sign autographs and smile for photos. Be there for today’s open session Fans Day.

FB CONTEST. Here’s your chance to win an overnight stay for two at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa. And, with it, a pair of VIP tickets (priced at P5,000 each) to the Davis Cup, scheduled this March 4 to 6. The game is simple. Log-in to Facebook and go to “DavisCupLapuLapuCity.” Read the mechanics. All you need is a photo in beach wear holding a racquet… send the picture and–TA-DA!–who knows, you just might be sipping fresh mango juice while sunbathing at one of Asia’s best. Visit FB now.

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